Losing great poets: Remembering Fred Chappell

3827813708 79c4d62a9a kFred Chappell, former North Carolina Poet Laureate and longtime professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro died on January 4 at age 87.

To celebrate his contributions, I have revised a column I wrote in 2009 about his book of short stories, “Ancestors and Others: New and Selected Stories.”

Asserting that his novels and short stories were equally as great as his poetry could get you in trouble with Chappell’s adoring poetry fans. They will think of him always as North Carolina’s Poet Laureate, even though his term ended in 2003.

Chappell was one of the rare poets whose excellence is celebrated both by his fellow poets and a significant public following.

There is no denying that he was a great poet.

But when he turned his poetry-tuned wordsmithing to his inventive, imaginative, and place-based stories, something even better than his poetry was the result, as demonstrated in his 2009 book, “Ancestors and Others: New and Selected Stories.”

That book collected a variety of 21 stories. “Variety” is an insufficient description of the different experiences that Chappell gives his readers, taking them from the North Carolina mountains of the recent past to Sweden, France and England centuries ago; from North Carolina’s “good old boys” to the composer Haydn; from Newton’s theories to how to kill a deer.

After reading each story, I wanted to call some friend to say, “Fred Chappell wrote a short story especially for you.”

I want my hunting friends Doug Lay and Wendell Merritt to read “Tradition,” which takes its hero from his group into a deer blind so cold, as described by Chappell, that this reader started to shake.
For Peter White, former director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, “Linnaeus Forgets” is perfect. Chappell takes us to Sweden in 1758 where Carl Linnaeus, the designer of plant classification systems, discovers a plant that houses a community of thousands of tiny human-like creatures.

My former minister, Bob Dunham, could read the short story, “Judas,” and maybe explain Judas’s comment that Jesus was “simply goofy, a nut…. That was the whole trouble, you know. His kind of Madness is contagious.”

Retired music UNC Chapel Hill professor Tom Warburton and former New York Philharmonic lead oboist Joe Robinson would delight in “Moments of Light,” in which Haydn’s visit to Herschel’s (the discoverer of Uranus and also an oboist) observatory led to the composition of “The Creation.”

The despair that follows the loss of a best friend in a deadly accident as described in “Duet” would be familiar to a psychiatrist like the late Dr. Robert Bashford, who would have understood the power of the friend’s music at graveside to give comfort and relief.

The appearance of three genetically reconstructed Civil War soldiers in “Ancestors” would thoroughly entertain Civil War enthusiast Alan Stephenson.

The North Carolina Collection’s former director Bob Anthony could identify with the librarian in “The Lodger.” A dead poet tries to infiltrate and take over the librarian’s life.

Cliff Butler, a retired pharmacist who grew up in Dunn, could follow the country furniture store delivery team hauling a new freezer, the surprise “Christmas Gift” for a farmer’s wife, who had ironed tobacco leaves to get high bids of the buyers for her husband’s crop.

It was easy to tag Chappell’s stories as aimed at prospective men readers. But Chappell appeals to women, too, especially those who want to understand men and their crazy doings and firm friendships. Some stories are aimed right at women, as in “Gift of Roses,” the poignant tale of a blind woman who rescues heritage roses. Greensboro’s Margaret Arbuckle, who once tried to save an ancient rose bush from the advancing waters of Lake Norman, might also understand.

A few weeks before Chappell’s death, my family also lost a great poet and chronicler of mountain life, my brother, Mike Martin, who also died at age 87. While I will miss both of them, I will always be grateful for their opening doors for me to see the world in richer and deeper ways.

Editor’s Note: D.G. Martin, a retired lawyer, served as UNC-System’s vice president for public affairs and hosted PBS-NC’s North Carolina Bookwatch.

Studio SM2: Fayetteville’s bilingual photography studio

StudioSM2 photoProfessional photography is a thriving global business and Fayetteville doesn’t have a shortage of local premier photographers. Studio SM2 is adding to the talent and artistic eye of Fayetteville, located at 100 Hay Street Suite 704 in downtown.

Owner Jesus Sebastian Martinez, preferably referred to as Sebastian, is from Sincelejo, Colombia, and moved to the United States three years ago with his wife Lina, after studying business administration and graphic design. Unlike some photographers who have chosen to just shoot one style, Martinez is a photographer of many talents.

His photography skills range from professional headshots to high fashion; whatever the need, he has it covered. His enormous smile and keen eye for the “best side” of every client, make sessions with Martinez one-of-a-kind, comfortable experiences.

Photography isn’t the only service offered at Studio SM2. The studio offers videography and content creation services for individuals and businesses looking to take their social media presence to the next level, providing quality videos, creative direction and behind the scenes content. The studio is located within the Keep It Cute K Content Space, making it ideal for capturing photographs and video, in various beautifully decorated spaces.

”I accompany entrepreneurs in the creation of their businesses. I advise them and help them achieve what they want if they need a design, digital content, photographs, or ideas, because before delivering a final product, I am interested in people exploring and enjoying the process,” Martinez said.
Studio SM2 is a business born of pure artistic passion.

“I remember that when I was a kid, I liked photography, and more than taking photos of myself, I liked taking photos of other people. I remember that my mom had a roll black camera that was very old, then she changed it to a gray one, and I spent a lot of money taking photos of everything, of course she didn’t know…

"When I had my first digital camera, I found out the topic of videos and I started making videos and editing them, but I always did it for myself, to remember or to have memories and stories to tell. When I was 15, I had an advanced camera. The truth is that I took photos of everything that was interesting to me and that told me a story,” Martinez said.

“When I started studying Graphic Design, photography classes were my favorite and I began to find out more tools for photography,” Martinez said of his love for photography. When it comes to job experience, Martinez is well-equipped in his knowledge of creating content for clients and shooting stunning photos. While in Columbia, he racked up quite a resume working for companies like INSPIRA and even launched his educational project for children called +Inclusion. The United States was not in Martinez's original plan, but he has found a new mission and purpose here.

“I never imagined myself living in America and my English is not the best. But in my almost three years of living in this country, each experience has been enriching and rewarding. I have been able to connect with amazing people who have given me great learnings…I want to start creating learning spaces for the Latin community.

"I want to provide photography classes, content creation workshops, video editing workshops, social media workshops, and other creative workshops. I feel that there is a lot to contribute to the Latin community and I think this is the moment.” Martinez said.

Not a man to not give credit, Martinez is adamant that the secret to his success is his incredible wife Lina, a local ESL teacher. “She has been my model at 2 a.m. when I have wanted to take photos. Furthermore, she is my unconditional support, she is a beautiful woman, with surprising charisma and an adorable person. She is my right hand at Studio SM2 and we are always looking for new ideas.”

Lina is the driving force behind Sebastian, from helping him capture behind the scenes footage, to creative directing and translating. Studio SM2 is currently taking clients and Martinez has high hopes for the future of the studio.

“I want that Studio SM2 would be a famous space and brand in Fayetteville. I don’t want it to just be a space to take photographs, I want it to be known as a space to meet and connect with other people. I want people to feel comfortable, and safe and discover their best version in this space. I want Studio SM2 to be recognized as a unique experience, for our attention to small details to make a difference and to highlight that we want to show the best in each person,” Martinez said.

To book a session or view work, visit the studio website at

Bits and Pieces of Glass: Cape Fear Studios' newest exhibit

20240126 135729“People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
— Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Cape Fear Studios is a non-profit organization. It has been the only visual arts cooperative for 32 years in Fayetteville. The mission of the Cape Fear Studios is “to involve, educate, and enrich Cumberland County and surrounding communities with the opportunity to create and freely view art.”

Bits and Pieces of Glass features distinctive and luminous stained-glass creations by Jaylene Nordgren and her students. The exhibit will be held from Jan. 11, to Feb. 20, at Cape Fear Studios, in Fayetteville.

“Stained glass has been used for thousands of years beginning with Ancient Romans and Egyptians, who produced small objects made from colored glass. Stained glass can be traced back to the 7th century with early examples found in monasteries and churches. Benedict Biscop commissioned French workers to create the stained glass for the monastery of St. Peter in 675 A.D.” according to A Short History of Stained Glass.

“In 1991, I started my journey into stained glass. I took classes from John Stoddard and Christa Moore. After several years of practice, I joined the Cape Fear Studios and began teaching. I have been teaching for over twenty years. I enjoy watching my students overcome their fear of breaking glass. They have inspired me in their various visions,” said Nordgren, Cape Fear Studios artist.

Delight in the Bits and Pieces of Glass at the Cape Fear Studios at 148 Maxwell Street. The main gallery spotlights engaging paintings, photographs, sculptures, pottery and fine jewelry by local, national and international artists. Educational workshops and classes are available to the public.

The exhibit is available for viewing on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday during the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cape Fear Studios is closed on Sundays.
Admission to Bits and Pieces of Glass is free. For more information about Cape Fear Studios and the exhibit, call 910-433-2986 or visit

Our People: The Black Influence in Contemporary Culture

54967 logo wt26dddc4bs71623351112 600February is Black History Month, and there will be no shortage of activities for the public to participate in to immerse themselves in the culture and history of African Americans. Our People: The Black Influence in Contemporary Culture exhibition is one event no one should miss.

The Arts Council of Fayetteville Our People exhibit will run from Jan. 26th to March 2nd. Admission is free to the public. The exhibit can be viewed during gallery hours, Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday noon to 6 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Community members, churches, schools, and everyone in between are welcome to come enjoy the masterpieces of current black artists. This year’s exhibit jurors are Brandon Dean Johnson, Bryane Broadie, Makayla Binter and Bob Pinson, Arts Council of Fayetteville’s CEO and President.

Our People: The Black Influence in Contemporary Culture is a colorful, beautiful and sincere visual homage to black culture from black artists, a Black History Month exhibition that focuses on the grace, accomplishments and subject of current black artists.

“Our People is really contemporary, modern, and I refer to a phrase, forward-looking exhibit, in the sense that we really wanted to give flowers and also just acknowledge the artists. The artists that are making art right now are going to have stuff in museums and the history forward. So instead of focusing on the things that have already happened, we want to acknowledge the present and the future. I would say that a lot of the art and just the type of art that’s in the exhibit and just the way that you can interact with the exhibit is really in that same modern style,” said Miles McKeller-Smith, Director of Public Relations at the Arts Council.

Our People is a highly anticipated exhibit that has taken time, blood, sweat, tears and a little clarification to create the wonderfully magical experience the public has to look forward to. It is, for the most part, thanks to the work and dedication of the curator.

McKeller-Smith said, “First and foremost I think it’s important to bring up the Curator, Collyn Strother. He is a Fayetteville native and also a Fayetteville State Alumni and he’s an artist that has chosen to really do what he does here, and build a community here. When he had the opportunity to curate this event you could tell he really just took the
torch and ran with it.”

The Opening Reception was one for the books on Jan. 26th. An opening reception befitting of its show, the community came out to support Our People and the wonderful artists that are being featured, including local artists Lauren Falls and Chayla Walker. After an artist-only private reception, the gallery officially opened its doors for the public to view the exhibit. DJ Fudgee kept the ambiance of the night going, while Hip-Hop Collective The Social Contract stopped through for a performance. A night of celebrating black art wouldn’t be complete without spoken word. Keith Sowell held it down phonetically.

A celebration to start a celebration, community members have the entire month to take in the art of Our People: The Black Influence in Contemporary Culture.

A diner in New York and North Carolina roadside eateries

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What does Old John’s, a diner on the Upper West Side of New York City, have to do with North Carolina?

An article titled “The Best Diners Are Still Just Diners” in the January 7 edition of The New Yorker praised Old John’s for staying true to its nostalgic ideal.

The author, Helen Rosner, celebrates diners who have remained diners.

“I always read the whole menu at a diner, but I don’t really need to. My order is both predictable and unremarkable: a cup of soup, a cheeseburger with fries. Sometimes I’ll switch things up and have a Greek salad, with extra feta cheese, or corned-beef hash and scrambled eggs, though the side of fries always remains.


A cup of coffee—lots of milk—and a slice of pie. If I were to scroll back through my life, tallying every diner meal, every fat ceramic mug of watery coffee, I think they might number in the thousands.”

Rosner reminds me of my regular breakfast order at Sutton’s in Chapel Hill. “Two over easy with bacon and, sometimes, grits.” Martha, Hollie, or Elsie, always attentive and smiling, know what I want before I open my mouth.

Rosner, who was writing about Old John’s (though she could have been writing about Sutton’s) said, “There are people who think of a diner as just a place to get a meal, and then there are those of us who understand diners, who cherish them, who seek them out and settle into them. We are recharged by time spent in diners in the way that adults who emerged from happy childhoods are recharged by a visit to their parents’ home.
Every diner is different; every diner is exactly the same. The ideal of a diner—its promise, its function—is not to be great but to be there. To be open when you need a restaurant to be open, to have seats when you need to sit, to exist sufficiently outside of time and space and trend that its reliability is itself reliable.”

For more than 35 years I have been writing about such diners and other eateries in North Carolina, where locals eat, and visitors are welcome. My readers liked those columns better than my usual ones about politics and books. When I invited them to write about their favorite local haunts, I got enough material for more columns and for a series of magazine articles that featured local eateries near the interstates.

All that led to UNC Press’s “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints” in 2016.

Because the book helped readers find North Carolina eateries that were like Old John‘s in New York, “Roadside Eateries” was a great success.

But there are problems. Thanks to Covid and changing tastes, more than 30 of the book’s eateries have closed including the following, listed by nearby interstates:

I-26: Ward’s Grill; Saluda.
I- 40: Judge’s Riverside, Morganton; Smith Street Diner, Greensboro; Allen & Son, Chapel Hill; Margaret’s Cantina, Chapel Hill; Toot-n-Tell Restaurant, Garner; Holland’s Shelter Creek Fish Camp, Burgaw.
I-73 & 74: Dixie III Restaurant, Asheboro; Hill’s Lexington Barbecue, Winston-Salem.
I-77: Acropolis Cafe & Grill, Cornelius; Carolina Bar-B-Q, Statesville; The Cook Shack, Union Grove; The Lantern Restaurant, Dodson.
I-85: Wink’s King of Barbecue, Salisbury; Tommy’s Barbecue, Thomasville; Captain Tom’s Seafood Restaurant, Thomasville; Angelo’s Family Restaurant, Graham; Bob’s Bar-B-Q, Creedmoor; Nunnery-Freeman Barbecue, Henderson.
I-95: Sheff’s Seafood Restaurant, Pembroke; Candy Sue’s Restaurant, Lumberton; Fuller’s Old Fashion Bar-B-Q Lumberton (relocated to Pembroke); Durham; Miss Maude’s Café, Smithfield; Holt Lake Bar-B-Q & Seafood, Smithfield; Bill’s Barbecue and Chicken Restaurant, Wilson; Broadnax Diner, Seaboard.

Their loss the bad news.

The good news is replacements have been found and UNC Press plans to publish an updated edition on April 1.

You can find a preview and a new cover at or Google UNC Press Roadside Eateries

Editor’s Note: D.G. Martin, a retired lawyer, served as UNC-System’s vice president for public affairs and hosted PBS-NC’s North Carolina Bookwatch.

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